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Meyer, other Big Ten coaches welcoming challenge of nine conference games

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OSU Coach Urban Meyer sounds his whistle before the first game of the 2016 season against Bowling Green on Sept. 3 at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 77-10. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo Editor

OSU Coach Urban Meyer sounds his whistle before the first game of the 2016 season against Bowling Green on Sept. 3 at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 77-10. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo Editor

In 2013, the Big Ten Conference released the 2016-17 schedules for football, along with plans for a nine-game conference schedule for each of its 14 teams. The adoption of the schedule brought the Big Ten in line with the Pacific-12 Conference and the Big 12 Conference, and brought about discussion of the rest of the Power 5 conferences adopting a similar conference.

Nebraska coach Mike Riley praised the approaching nine-game conference schedule at Nebraska’s Monday press conference according to Brian Rosenthal of Huskers.com. Riley is familiar with the format, after spending time with the Pac-12 as the head coach of Oregon State.

“I like it this way,” Riley said. “I know you have to play everybody in your division, and since our conference is so big, I think having those other league games that aren’t in your division are good games for everybody to play in and to watch.”

With the addition of an extra in-conference matchup, the resume for a team vying for a spot in the College Football Playoff can be bolstered by a win against a team within its league. The spot taken by the extra Big Ten game will replace one out-of-conference opponent.

The three previous opponents of the fourth nonconference game for OSU have been Florida A&M, Cincinnati and Western Michigan. All games resulted in wins for the Buckeyes.

When asked about his viewpoints on the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coastal Conference adding an extra intraleague game, OSU coach Urban Meyer felt Riley had a point. However, he also said he doesn’t worry much about anyone other than the Buckeyes.

“I’ve given it zero thought. I think coach (Mike) Riley’s got a good point there,” Meyer said. “But I couldn’t tell you what conferences do and what conferences do not.”

Unlike recent years, including this season, the change in the number of conference games has also changed the format of the schedule. Most Buckeye fans are used to having all out-of-conference games to start the season before opening Big Ten play, but this isn’t the case anymore.

For instance, OSU will open against Indiana in Bloomington before returning to Ohio Stadium for a matchup against Oklahoma. In 2018, OSU begins the year against Oregon State before facing Rutgers in the second game of the year.

With the new format and longer Big Ten schedule looming, Meyer knows how important the next nine games will be. With five teams currently ranked within the top 20, the difficulty level is high for the Buckeyes.

“I think our conference is very strong right now,” Meyer said. “Our division is, has to be one of the strongest if not the strongest in college football.”

OSU opens Big Ten play after a bye week. The first in-conference foe for the Buckeyes is Rutgers at home next Saturday at noon.

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